Wednesday, December 17, 2008

An Extreme Example Demonstrates our Lack of Balance

I read of a church in which two people were shot dead and many others were wounded by mad gang violence on the church property early Sunday morning. Later that morning, police cars were all over and yellow police tape was cutting across the crime scene as an open investigation was taking place. The coroner was taking away body bags, while a sign, hastily hung below the police tape, read, “Church Service Will Go On As Usual.”

Our first response might be admiration for such a thing. Nothing can keep God’s people from obedience; they will worship no matter what happens. But obedience to what? There is no command in the New Testament to attend church services as we know them on Sunday morning.

Is it wrong that this church met despite the ongoing investigation of murder on their campus? No, it isn’t wrong, just a bit extreme and portrays that we may have our priorities out of balance.

A pastor friend of mine does not understand the reason I think this is so extreme. He asked, “If a murder happened on the same block as the house where your organic church meets, would you cancel a get-together?”

I said, “No, but if the murder took place at the same house where we meet, and the police were still dusting for fingerprints and removing body bags--yes!”

I have heard pastors say that what we do on Sunday mornings is the most important thing we do all week. Such platitudes sound religious and pious, but I do not believe they are true. I think God is far more concerned with how you treat your family, your neighbors, and the strangers on the street than how well dressed, timely, and inspired you are on Sunday morning at church services.

Just the fact that we can get away with convincing people that Sunday services are the most important thing we do all week is testimony to how far removed we are from the Scriptures. The devil has succeeded in deluding us and removing us from truth. We leaders are taking people down a path that is not the truth with all of the conviction of our belief in the Bible and none of the substance of it.

I would imagine that many of you reading this post right now are shocked by my assertion that a Sunday church service is not a biblical mandate. You are probably searching for verses in your mind right now. You will not find any, and the ones you think you find do not carry the theological assumption you've been told that they do. I will address this a bit more in a later post.

All of this shows us how out of balance we are on the importance of a Sunday worship service. I'm not against gathering and worshiping. I am not saying it is bad or wrong or even wasted energy. I am against placing Biblical authority on a duty to something that is not instructed in the Bible.

Two people died that morning on the church grounds. Police were still actively investigating the crime scene, taking testimony, and searching for evidence when parishioners started arriving for the service. The coroner was trying to remove the bodies before the choir started singing! In any other context the police would have prevented anyone from entering the scene of the crime, but I am sure a church on Sunday morning is an intimidating force even to a police department.


Scott Linklater said...

...this steps on so many toes,... big toes, well known toes, ...toes with southern accents and toes with wire rim glasses... toes with nice robes and toes with Hawaiian shirts...on the toes of traditional structure, and therefore the toes of renown foundations with big financial needs… and of course the toes of organizations and denominations …what if what you are saying is correct? What changes then need to be made, major changes?

…great article – I linked it to to share it with others…

Neil Cole said...

Yeah, I've never been one for dancing. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Well, you've done it this time, Neil. Do you need anyone to post bail for you at the courthouse? I'm just kidding.

I think what you wrote is excellent. It's a good practical application of the concepts I've been studying.

If you don't mind, I'm going to quote you on my blog,

Looking forward to meeting you in February. I'm the guy who called from Minneapolis, a friend of the Drivers.

Neil Cole said...

Hi Matthew (uh, Survival Man). Katie speaks well of you and I look forward to meeting you in February at the conference!

Kork said...


This is just fascinating...

I don’t know what was meant by “as usual,” (I hope that they didn’t remain committed to things like the order of the service; songs, and what-not) but if one’s family member were to have been murdered, life and practice would be anything but usual. I would hope that a terrible interruption would begin, very openly (possibly along with the investigators), where Christ could be seen weeping with those who weep. I am trying to be gently, but what a disconnect from life with Christ. I hope they were all connected as family.

I understand the paradigm, and the sincerity of this attitude, wanting to revere God in the face of the surrounding apocalypse, but what a subtle departure from the second commandment... umm.. I don’t mean the graven image one, I mean Jesus’ “love your neighbor as yourself.” It is expressing, exactly, the same as the first, “Loving God with all of your soul, mind, and strength,” which folks would say is our worship. He indicates that it is the same as His first, loving God, and is therefore, worshiping Him.

Locally, a few years back, the Amish community suffered great loss when a gunman came into one of their school houses, and murdered their children. Life was not the same as they mourned. They still worshiped God in their tradition, but uncommonly, and uniquely, they went to the gunman’s funeral and comforted his family, wept with them, shared the loss, and offered him their forgiveness. That was a very (and outstandingly different) public worship that I think is truly honoring to Christ. In fact a very altered and unusual worship.

Thanks again Neil!